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The Hunt For "Dumb Beats"

10 April 2015 | 9:24 pm | Simone Ubaldi

"It’s just like someone so baked out, but it works!"

More Peaches More Peaches
A long-time resident of Berlin, the Toronto-born avant-garde gender terrorist known as Peaches went looking for a milder place in which to record her new album and ended up in a leafy neighbourhood of Los Angeles. “Why not be somewhere sunny and warm where everything is easy, right? And then you have a little garage that’s your own, 24 hours a day, and when shit’s going wrong, you can walk outside into the sunshine,” the artist born Merrill Beth Nisker shrugs.

If Berlin is the perfect home for experimental art, LA seems a weird fit for someone of Nisker’s anarchic disposition. But LA is a big city, she explains. “There are so many different scenes going on. It’s a constant process of discovery, finding real, underground, fun things to do. I’ve gone to some incredible parties here. I went to this party in South LA and the whole street was just like street food and vegan food, people just setting up booths and hanging out. It was such a nice vibe. And it was a Tuesday night or something. I was just like, ‘Wow, this is so great!’”

The LA hip hop scene has thrown up its share of inspiration. While working on her sixth studio album, the follow-up to 2009’s I Feel Cream, Nisker has been on the hunt for what she calls “dumb beats”. Two Californian rappers fitted the bill; she cites Gas Pedal by Sage The Gemini and CoCo by O.T. Genasis as earworms that have fed her personal musical palate. “That CoCo song is amazingly dumb, it’s just like someone so baked out, but it works! It’s just like, ‘How is this working?! Why? I want all music to go this way.’ I don’t mean dumb like dumbed down, I just mean minimal, basic, but it works.” She laughs.

"There’s a bunch of Barbie dolls all over the wall and my tits are out, but it’s still a very private moment.”

The record Nisker made in LA is due for release later this year, and she promises a return to form. “I love it. I don’t know what to say. It’s so classic me, this album.” Post-gender politics are front and centre, again, along with the hard-edged beats of the Fatherfucker era, but Peaches is taking us into new emotional territory. “I know people probably think I have, but I’ve never written a really angry, emotional song. [One of the new tunes] is the most intense song I’ve ever done. It’s about break-up shit; it’s pretty obvious.”

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While fans await the new record, titled Rub, a new Peaches photo book has just been released. What Else Is In The Teaches Of Peaches (Akashic Books) is a documentary record of the last six years in her life, with contributions from Yoko Ono, Michael Stipe and actress Ellen Page, the book is a collaboration between Peaches and photographer Holgar Talinski. “He’s a skater kid,” she explains. “He asked if he could take pictures of me and I just told him to come along [to a show] one night. And he was just so pleasant and unassuming and helpful I said, ‘Why don’t you come on the tour? Why don’t you come meet my parents? Why don’t you come over here?’” The book depicts Nisker on stage and off, setting her fierce public persona against her reflective private self, capturing the making of the quasi-autobiographical musical film, Peaches Does Herself, which did the tour of international film festivals in 2013; her performance in the opera, L’Orfeo, for which the singer studied Italian for roughly six months, as well as her 2014 one-man Andrew Lloyd Webber adaptation, Peaches Christ Superstar. It also shows Peaches at home, warts and all. “I love the cover,” Peaches admits. “I know you’re gonna be like, ‘obviously’, but I’m sitting on the toilet, Bette Davis-style. You can’t see the toilet. I’m smelling my hair, which is a very private moment. I used to do it as a kid, when I had really long hair. It’s like my thinking habit, like some people twirl their hair. There’s a bunch of Barbie dolls all over the wall and my tits are out, but it’s still a very private moment.” More than one friend has expressed horror that Peaches would let so many ‘ugly’ pictures loose in the world – there’s no airbrushing in What Else Is In The Teaches Of Peaches. “I like it,” she laughs. “I like the reality. I’m not ashamed. The book shows that I’m a down-to-earth, real person.”